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California protest demands ‘Don’t tax unemployment benefits!’

Restore the $600 per week unemployment supplement!
By staff |
February 16, 2021
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California protest demands ‘Don’t tax unemployment benefits’
California protest demands ‘Don’t tax unemployment benefits’ (Fight Back! News/staff)

San José, CA - On February 13, the Northern California Unemployed Committee (NCUC) held its first protest in San José. The protest was called for the day after the IRS began accepting 2020 tax returns, to demand that the federal government stop taxing benefits for the unemployed. The protest also called for the restoration of the $600 weekly unemployment supplement.

The protest began at a branch of Bank of America in downtown San Jose. Mike Paradela, of the Unemployed Committee, introduced the protest, saying that Bank of America profits from running the debit card program through which California unemployment benefits are paid. Masao Suzuki, a member of the Unemployed Committee and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, was the protest’s first speaker. Suzuki said many economists are talking about the so-called ‘K-shaped’ economy with more and more economic inequality, which reflects the reality that we live in society dominated by monopoly capitalists.

The protesters then marched to the federal building, carry signs saying, “Tax the rich, not the poor” and “Stop the tax on unemployment benefits.” There were spirited chants like “$600 per week! Don’t be cheap!” with a back-and-forth between the emcee and protesters. At the downtown federal building, Nina Vishwakarma of the Unemployed Committee spoke of the special oppression that women were going through in this recession. She spoke of her close friend, a grocery store worker, who contracted COVID-19 at work, while the store was allowing maskless customers in the store. This was just another example of how “The pandemic has put many working women in the difficult position of choosing between their financial security and they own safety, as well as the safety of their loved ones.”

A former restaurant worker spoke about their experience as the restaurant industry closed down. They were initially denied unemployment insurance and lost a whole month of benefits. Things went from bad to worse when the $600 per week supplement stopped at the end of July. Their co-workers couldn’t afford the Bay Area anymore and about 40% of their co-workers had left the Bay Area, while many others have left the restaurant industry.

The protesters finished the event with a spirited march back to the Bank of America building.

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